Hockey rivalries abound this weekend
Variety is the spice of life. It's true, since we've got another weekend of interesting matchups across college hockey with a little something for everyone.
On tap are traditional rivalries as well as rivalries of newer vintage. We've got teams that have bolted out of the gate quickly and others off to rocky starts. We've got veteran clubs and those stocked with up-and-coming youngsters. Whichever is your favorite flavor, we hope you enjoy Inside College Hockey's rundown of the top action in the Friday Four-cast.
FRIDAY AND SATURDAY
Interesting statistic heading into this weekend's series between the top-ranked RedHawks and the No. 4 Wolverines -- Michigan has scored 12 first-period goals this season, more than any other team in the CCHA, while Miami has three first-period scores, tied for the second fewest in the conference. Why, you ask, does that matter? After all, the RedHawks have scored a CCHA-best 17 second-period goals and the Wolverines have three in the second, the second fewest in the league.
It matters because Miami's record at Yost Ice Arena is just slightly better than Wile E. Coyote's against the Road Runner.
In 47 games in Ann Arbor, the RedHawks have won just thrice and tied once. Coach Enrico Blasi's team is a resilient bunch, but history indicates that if Michigan gets ahead of Miami at Yost, they stay there.
Minutiae? Perhaps, but these teams are so evenly matched that it's likely the littlest of advantages will play a key role in the outcome.
These games, the only regular-season meetings between the two teams, mark the start of a difficult run for the Wolverines. In addition to Miami, Red Berenson's club faces Michigan State, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Notre Dame over the next six weeks.
Last week's win at Dartmouth was a big one for Harvard because it showed the 2009-10 Crimson that they could achieve some things that last year's group did not.
First, it was a road win -- Harvard was 0-11-5 away from the Bright Hockey Center last year. Second, the victory included a run of five straight goals in the second and third periods scored by four different players. Harvard averaged just 2.19 goals per game last year.
For Cornell's fans and alumni, this is the most important game on the Big Red's schedule every year. For this year's Big Red team, it might not be.
At a public speaking engagement at a local sports booster club luncheon earlier this week, Cornell coach Mike Schafer gave a brief synopsis of his team and its upcoming season. Not once did he mention this week's game against Harvard, nor did he mention defending league champion Yale or NCAA tournament team and nationally ranked Princeton. He talked about big nonconference games against Boston University, North Dakota, Colorado College and New Hampshire.
Saturday's game against Harvard will get the attention of the fans, but you get the sense that Cornell has bigger fish to fry (pun intended).
In most years, this is a clash of top-10 programs. This year, however, both teams have struggled.
The Wildcats are coming off a weekend in which they were outscored 10-2 by Wisconsin, and the Eagles' last contest was a 5-3 loss at Merrimack -- a game the Warriors led 5-1 early in the third period. The goalies, UNH's Brian Foster and BC's John Muse, are the bottom two in Hockey East in goals-against average and save percentage.
Mind you, no one is poised to run away with the league regular-season title at the moment. But a win here could be the difference between snapping out of the early-season funk and continuing in a downward spiral.
FRIDAY AND SATURDAY
It's been a tough year for Minnesota, which is something you really don't want to hear about your team the first week in November.
The latest setback involves injuries to freshman defenseman Nick Leddy (out six weeks with a broken jaw) and senior forward Jay Barriball (gone for the year with a knee injury). Now the Gophers have to figure out a way to slow down a Badgers offense humming on all cylinders -- Wisconsin averages 3.50 goals per game, which is tied for second best in the WCHA.
Given Minnesota's scoring woes, goaltender Alex Kangas (second in the league with a .939 save percentage) might have to be close to perfect against the Badgers, who are outshooting foes by an average of 16.2 shots per game.
Notre Dame heads to Alaska to try to solve Nanook goalie Scott Greenham. UMass Lowell travels to Vermont on Friday, then hosts New Hampshire on Sunday. Adam Murray is the go-to guy in goal for Denver in place of Marc Cheverie. The Pioneers are at Alaska Anchorage. Which will produce the higher score: Minnesota Duluth-Colorado College in hockey or Alabama-LSU in football?
On ESPNU: New Hampshire at UMass Lowell, Sunday at 5 p.m. ET.
For more on college hockey, check out Inside College Hockey.
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